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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Doral Nine is Divine

This year, I'm enjoying more golf and spending less time doing it. How? By playing nine holes instead of the usual eighteen. When you do that at a splendid facility like the Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook, NY, it's one of the great  pleasures of golf.

Doral Arrowwood

The Doral has everything its longer Westchester brethren have--a variety of playing challenges, spectacular views and picturesque layouts, fabulous bunkering, and greens that will break your heart with their strong contouring and slick conditioning. It was designed by Robert von Hagge, the master who created the Blue Monster at the Doral in Miami. Hagge not only took full advantage of the naturally rolling terrain, but sculpted the fairways for maximum visual appeal. The shadows in the morning and late afternoons are wondrous. Hagge also makes you play over water on seven of the nine holes, so bring plenty of ammunition.

As you might expect for a course that tips out at 2,924 yards (par 35), precision counts more than length, but there are certainly opportunities when you can pull the driver and let her fly. The first hole, in fact, is 392 yards and rewards a long, straight drive with a short approach to a really small, difficult green. If you can hit a 20-yard-wide landing area, you may also  want to let the big dog hunt on the 440-yard par 5 third hole and certainly on the 493-yard par 5 fifth.

To score on Doral, though, you really need accurate iron play. A prime example comes at the sixth hole, a visually delightful 345 yards with an approach over water to a wide but very shallow green. Short is wet, long is dead, and if your ball doesn't land on the same side of the green as the cup, you'll have an impossible putt. The 340-yard eighth hole really requires two accurate irons--one off the tee to avoid the pond pinching the fairway at 185 yards and the second to place your ball on the right tier of the large, strongly contoured green.

The par threes are truly delightful. The fourth hole plays at 140 yards, but pin positions can add or subtract 15 yards from that number and it's all carry over water, so check the wind, too. The seventh hole, at 190 yards, is the easiest of the three even though the green is set in a virtual bowl of bunkers.

A real challenge at Doral is the 211-yard second hole, one of the most visually intimidating par threes you'll find anywhere. From the tee, all you see is water--that's because there is about 180 yards of it to carry before you reach dry land! There is no bailout area, either, so hitch up your britches, take a deep breath, and aim for that pin.

While the course is a fine test of golf that you can enjoy round after round, the Doral offers a host of other amenities. There's an excellent practice facility with both a full range and short game area. Golf instruction is provided by the Mitchel Spearman Golf Academy, which offers a range of programs including computer video analysis, group and personal lessons, and an extensive array of junior golf programs. Hot Stix Golf is located at Doral, too, so expert, in-depth club fitting is readily available. And what would any good golf course be without a 19th hole? Mulligan's, an excellent outdoor bar and grille, overlooks the ninth green at Doral.

Greens fees start at $50 including mandatory cart. There are also memberships available for individuals, families, and corporations.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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